Rose Marie Reid

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Rose Marie Reid

Rose Marie Reid, born Rose Marie Yancey (September 12, 1906 in Cardston, Alberta, Canada – December 16, 1978 in Provo, Utah, USA), was a Canadian-born American swimsuit designer who was extremely popular and successful in the 1940s-60s. Rose Marie believed that every woman should feel just as glamorous in a swimsuit as they do in an evening gown and designed her suits accordingly.


Rose Marie Yancey was born to William Elvie Yancey Sr. and Marie Hyde Yancey on September 12, 1906.

Rose Marie was married to Jack Crossman Reid on November 30, 1935. She had three children with him, Bruce Alan Reid (1937-2015), Sharon Reid Alden (1938), and Carole Marie Reid Burr (1940). Due to infidelity and abuse, Rose Marie ended her marriage to Jack on April 10, 1946. The divorce helped precipitate her large business move to California, and her mother, Marie, followed later with her children.


Early Career in Canada[edit]

Early Lace-Up Suit by Rose Marie Reid

Reid began her swimsuit designing career in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada in 1936 with Reid's Holiday Togs, Ltd. Lacing up both sides was typical of her earliest swimsuits and a 1938 example is preserved at the New Westminster Museum and Archives in Canada (Artifact # IH 994.76.68) [1]. In her first year of business, Rose Marie employed 16 employees, grossed $10,000 and designed only six suits.

"Jewels of the Sea" Advertisement featuring "Hourglass" suits by Rose Marie Reid

Rose Marie Reid, Inc.[edit]

On September 20, 1946, Rose Marie launched her American business, Rose Marie Reid, Inc. while also maintaining her Canadian business. By 1946, 50% of the swimsuits sold in Canada were designed by her.[1] Her swimsuits dominated the American market and were popular in Western Europe, South America, and Australia. After starting her American business, Reid lived in her Los Angeles factory until she purchased a home in Brentwood, California in 1949. Rose Marie was known for being innovative and fashionable in her swimsuit design and production. She was the first to use inner brassieres, tummy-tuck panels, stay-down legs, elastic banding, brief skirts, and foundation garments in swimwear.[2] She was also the first designer to introduce dress sizes in swimwear, designing swimwear for multiple sizes and types of bodies, rather than just one standard size, as was the practice of the time. Reid filed for a U.S. Patent in 1950 for a one-piece bathing suit using elastic fabric and lacked buttons.[3] She had several other patents for swimsuits and accessories. Her company patented a machine for a fagotting stitch that became a hallmark of her designs. She collaborated with a variety of businesses and fashion designers, including DuPont, and Emilio Pucci. Rose Marie licensed Pucci fabrics and used them in a series of swimsuits.

"Shirred Panel Classic" Magic Length Swimsuit by Rose Marie Reid

The "Hourglass" suit, introduced in 1951, and its variations, went on to become one of her company's all-time best sellers.

Her "Magic Length" swimsuit line featured an inner "miracle bra," tuck-away straps, a tummy control panel, stay-down leg, and elasticized back to keep the bodice from gapping. With its numerous adaptations for different body types, the "Magic Length" became a Rose Marie Reid classic and remained popular through the 1950s.

"Royal Ribbons" Ribbons of Color Sheath Swimsuit by Rose Marie Reid

Rose Marie introduced daring color combinations in her "Ribbons of Color" line which became one of Rose Marie's most successful lines, greatly expanding the 1950s color palette. By the 1960s, styles were trending away from the highly structured fit of the 1950s in favor of more minimalist, less form-fitting designs, leading Rose Marie to introduce her "Swimsuits by the Ounce" line of very lightweight swimsuits. This innovation was facilitated by the introduction of Lycra.

Rose Marie had sales offices in Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, New York City, London, Amsterdam, and Paris. Her success led her to travel frequently meeting with sales people to provide instruction on fabrics, styles, and designs. She was the first woman in the United States to fly 500,000 miles.

Awards and Success[edit]

In 1958, Reid was awarded the Sporting Look of the Year Award by Sports Illustrated [4] and in 1955 she was named one of the Ten Women of the Year by the Los Angeles Times.[5] While she didn't win, she was also nominated for Designer of the Year in 1956 by Sports Illustrated.[6] Her company was extremely successful in the 1950s. The 1951 gross of Rose Marie Reid, Inc. of $3.5 million increased nearly five fold to $18.1 million by 1960. Combined, her Canadian and U.S. factories increased production between 1952 and 1959 from 1,000 to 10,000 suits per day.[7] Rose Marie remained the sole designer in her company throughout this time.

Hollywood Fame[edit]

"Glittering Metallic Lamé" Swimsuit by Rose Marie Reid

Part of her immense success was due to her influence in Hollywood and the motion picture industry. Famous screen actresses, including Rita Hayworth, Marilyn Monroe, Jane Russell, and Rhonda Fleming wore her swimsuits. Rita Hayworth famously wore the "Glittering Metallic Lamé" suit to publicize her 1946 hit film, Gilda. Her suits were also featured in several California beach party films from the late 1950s and 1960s, including Gidget (film), Muscle Beach Party, and Where the Boys Are.


"Starlight" Swimsuit by Rose Marie Reid

A member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Rose Marie was known in Mormon circles for her proselytizing efforts among the Jewish people since she had many Jewish friends, neighbors, and business associates. She did some of this work in the 1950s in cooperation with LeGrand Richards[1] and Hugh Nibley. Rose Marie also helped with many fundraising efforts for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including fundraising for the construction of church buildings and the Los Angeles California Temple in 1954. Rose Marie designed the "Starlight" swimsuit and had local Relief Society members sew sequins onto the suits. This suit, also known as the "Relief Society Suit," sold for $50.[8] She donated the profits from this extremely commercially successful suit to the construction fund for the temple. "Starlight" was so popular that Life Magazine ran a two-and-a-half page spread about the suit’s success in 1956.[9] In 1959, Rose Marie was asked by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to redesign LDS temple garments. Rose Marie was also a very generous benefactor to Brigham Young University and served on the National Advisory Council. She also gave a "Devotional" speech at Brigham Young University in 1953.


Rose Marie left her company in 1963 over disagreements over the design and production of bikinis.[10] She moved to Provo, Utah in 1967 to be closer to family. In the late 60s, Rose Marie helped her son, Bruce, start The R&M Living Wig company.[11] She died on December 16, 1978 in her daughter Carole's home in Provo, Utah.

The largest holding of Rose Marie Reid's papers and swimsuits can be found in the L. Tom Perry Special Collections of the Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.[12] On August 17, 2015, the Harold B. Lee Library launched a 9-month exhibit about Rose Marie Reid's life and career entitled Rose Marie Reid: Glamour by Design. An online exhibit was also released in conjunction with the actual exhibit [2]. Both exhibits were curated by the L. Tom Perry Special Collections curator of 20th and 21st century Western and Mormon Americana manuscripts, John Murphy.


  1. ^ a b Garr, Arnold K. et al. Encyclopedia of Latter-day Saint History. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2000) p. 991, ISBN 978-1-57345-822-1 OCLC 44634356
  2. ^ Reid and Petersen, 1995 p. 35.
  3. ^ US patent 2431505, Rose Marie Reid, "BATHING SUIT", issued 1947-11-25  (Documents at Google Patents); US patent 2535018, Rose Marie Reid, "GARMENT", issued 1950-12-19  (Documents at Google Patents)
  4. ^ "'Sporting Look' Award Given to Designers". Deseret News. 30 May 1958. p. A16. 
  5. ^ "Women of the Year 1955", Los Angeles Times. 18 Dec. 1955. p. AA, AC, AD.
  6. ^ "Claire and Rudi", Sports Illustrated June 4, 1956
  7. ^ Reid and Petersen, 1995 p. 93,168.
  8. ^ Reid and Petersen, 1995 p. 97.
  9. ^ "A Swimsuit That Really Got Around" Life Magazine. 16 April 1956. pp. 22-24.
  10. ^ Reid and Petersen, 1995 p. 168-169.
  11. ^ Reid and Petersen, 1995 p. 190.
  12. ^ Carole Reid Burr and Sharon Reid Alden Collection on Rose Marie Reid